Is it worth pursuing a PsyD? Should I just do a Masters program?

Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
Hi guys :)

Some background info about me: I am 26, have my undergrad degree in psychology from UC Davis after getting a 3.36 cumulative gpa (not great, as I was going through some personal stuff at the start of school). I also have some research experience in university at a social cognition lab.
I am originally from California, but moved to Melbourne, Australia to get some world experience. In Australia I have worked in psych settings for about 1-2 years total.

I now am at a stage where I want to pursue higher education. I was dead set on applying to just PsyD programs in the US to get it all out of the way early. However I have been reading some forums that people are saying the PsyD is not worth it unless you want to do something involving research/assessment. However, I really like the idea of going all in and being able to be called a Dr. as I feel that is an important achievement for me. I have always taken pride in one day being able to say i am a psychologist, rather than a counselor. I also feel I would earn more if I went for a PsyD.

I really only want to work 1:1 with clients and provide therapy, and have my own practice one day. I am interested in the clinical side of mental health, but also helping people overcome issues in their lives that aren't clinical. I don't see myself pursuing research or wanting to be a professor, as the research aspect is not something I am passionate about at all.

It is very daunting to hear loads of people saying that a PsyD is a waste if you aren't interested in research, because you'll have heaps of debt and it is 5 years of your life, where you could be doing the same work with a Masters.

I am starting to open my eyes up to potentially doing a masters before going for a doctorate, as I guess I can always do my doctorate later in life. 5 years of my life right now at 26 seems like a lot to invest, especially if I want to have my first kid at 36 and still want to enjoy my life as a professional with money and being able to travel etc. before kids. But I am also concerned that it would just be more money doing a masters and a psyD on top of that.

I obviously really don't want to be in bad debt if I could have avoided it and It would be so terrible if I would make any decisions I would come to regret later.


Please, if someone can shed some light to this I would be eternally grateful! I haven't felt this lost in awhile :(
 
Last edited:
Sep 14, 2019
84
324
Status
  1. Psychology Student
Don't get a degree just because you want to be called a doctor.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 14 users

conky124

5+ Year Member
Feb 18, 2015
116
112
Status
  1. Psychology Student
Amen to the above. If the allure of becoming a "doctor" doesn't fade during the application process it definitely will by the time you finish grad school. There's nothing wrong with liking the idea of being a "doctor," but if that is what you are relying on to drive you in any shape or form then that motivation will fail on you very quickly.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
About the Ads
Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
Thanks for the reply guys. That is definitely not the only reason, as I also feel like I would be able to get it out of the way early rather than later, as I do want to get my doctorate eventually. I also feel like a PsyD would mean I would get a better pay.

I am just wondering if I should do a masters first, or if anyone had any helpful feedback with different pathways or helpful insight :)
 

R. Matey

A Pirate
5+ Year Member
Jul 15, 2014
667
776
Treasure Island
Status
  1. Post Doc
I think you should strongly consider a Master's in Social Work (MSW) if you are solely interested in providing therapy. You're able to provide therapy with this degree and it's only two years. While a Psy.D. might be a higher paycheck, you also need to factor in debt to your take home pay when considering advance degree options. It's not uncommon for people to leave Psy.D. programs with >$100k in student loan debt. That's simply bad math for a career that pays around $70-80k per year.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 5 users

conky124

5+ Year Member
Feb 18, 2015
116
112
Status
  1. Psychology Student
There are also plenty of people with MSW and LCSW who end up making more money by taking administrative positions while also doing therapy. These folks can make excellent therapists
 
  • Like
Reactions: 5 users

msc545

Clinical Psychologist & Neuropsychologist
2+ Year Member
Jun 11, 2017
62
50
San Francisco
Status
  1. Psychologist
There are many things you cannot do without an APA approved doctoral degree and post doc residency, including prison and VA work. Also, more and more other positions are requiring these things. All of this is due to the proliferation of for-profit diploma mills.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

R. Matey

A Pirate
5+ Year Member
Jul 15, 2014
667
776
Treasure Island
Status
  1. Post Doc
including prison and VA work

I'm pretty sure you can work at the VA with a social work degree. Heck, LPCs can be even be hired there now. Prisons hire midlevels all of the time. A few of my peers from my master's program have this job.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users

Psycycle

Psychologist, ABPP
10+ Year Member
Jul 9, 2006
675
468
Status
  1. Psychologist
Amen to the above. If the allure of becoming a "doctor" doesn't fade during the application process it definitely will by the time you finish grad school. There's nothing wrong with liking the idea of being a "doctor," but if that is what you are relying on to drive you in any shape or form then that motivation will fail on you very quickly.
Plus you're perceived as a "doctor" and not a doctor, anyway. Unless you're a neuropsychologist, then you're a doctor. At least that's been my experience.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

chicandtoughness

mental health clinician (LMHC)
5+ Year Member
Dec 7, 2014
320
188
There are also plenty of people with MSW and LCSW who end up making more money by taking administrative positions while also doing therapy. These folks can make excellent therapists
Yes yes yes. I am kicking myself every day for not doing the MSW haha.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

WisNeuro

Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
12,604
13,233
Somewhere
Status
  1. Psychologist
Bottom line, if you are not adequately trained to conduct and consume research, you are not a psychologist or a doctor, you are a midlevel who spent too long in school and likely paid WAYYYYYYY too much money.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7 users

foreverbull

5+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
1,108
1,382
I’m still not understanding why you want a doctorate. If you just want to provide therapy, doctoral programs will take 5-7 years or more until you can become licensed and be paid full pay as a licensed psychologist (a postdoc job to get hours for licensure is commonly required, too, as well as a national exam and sometimes state-level exams that are pricey). Early career psychologists also don’t always start out with the expected high pay (some folks in here do, but some don’t), so some still work their way up (this will depend on region, specialty, setting, etc.). The vast majority seek a doctorate to not only provide therapy but to have the flexibility to provide assessments, teach, conduct research, go into a particular niche (i.e. sports psychology, neuropsych), etc.

Instead, you could get a master’s degree in about 2-3 years, gain your licensure hours by year 3 or 4 (you’ll have to do an internship to get licensure hours and take an exam in master’s programs as well) and be fully licensed by year 4 and providing therapy. The pay ceiling is lower, but you’d be able to be part of the workforce faster and come out with less debt. I’d suggest an MSW with a clinical emphasis because it is more portable from state to state and offers more flexibility in job choices.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 3 users

conky124

5+ Year Member
Feb 18, 2015
116
112
Status
  1. Psychology Student
There are many things you cannot do without an APA approved doctoral degree and post doc residency, including prison and VA work. Also, more and more other positions are requiring these things. All of this is due to the proliferation of for-profit diploma mills.
I work at a VA with plenty of social workers who have LCSW and MSW.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
About the Ads

conky124

5+ Year Member
Feb 18, 2015
116
112
Status
  1. Psychology Student
Plus you're perceived as a "doctor" and not a doctor, anyway. Unless you're a neuropsychologist, then you're a doctor. At least that's been my experience.
At the VA the joke is everyone is a "doc" so you could save a lot of money and time that way.
 
  • Like
  • Haha
Reactions: 2 users

cara susanna

10+ Year Member
Feb 10, 2008
6,173
3,001
Midwest
Status
  1. Psychologist
Except for the patients who DEMAND to see a PhD (which from my experience is often diagnostically telling).
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users

futureapppsy2

Assistant professor
Moderator
10+ Year Member
Dec 25, 2008
6,065
2,582
I spent so many years getting emails from journals that incorrectly addressed me as “Dr” before I got my PhD (I published and reviewed a LOT as a PhD student) that I still feel the reflexive need to tell people that I’m not “Dr. Lastname”, before remembering that I actually am.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

R. Matey

A Pirate
5+ Year Member
Jul 15, 2014
667
776
Treasure Island
Status
  1. Post Doc
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
Thanks for the comments guys :)

I think im gonna opt for a masters in counseling before I commit to a PsyD! Does anyone know of any good programs? Are there any good masters programs with funding?
 
Feb 11, 2020
92
84
Status
  1. Psychology Student
Thanks for the comments guys :)

I think im gonna opt for a masters in counseling before I commit to a PsyD! Does anyone know of any good programs? Are there any good masters programs with funding?

The master's program I went to was awesome. But I'm also biased because I was with my professors for 4 years before that (undergrad) and have always highly respected and valued them. My program was a "clinical" and "counseling" program, designed to allow licensing as a Licensed Psychological Associate (LPA - the more "clinical" license and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC - a counseling license). The program is set up much like the first two years of a doctoral program, and many of the students continue on to doctoral training. I feel I received awesome training. I passed the EPPP at a doctoral level (a 500 or higher, which you have to do in my state to get licensed) the first time I took it.

However, this program can also shoot you in the foot if you aren't careful. Being in a really small town, there are not really research labs to gain research experience for your CV and future doctoral training. The research that you do has to be self-directed, no labs to work from. I mean, of course you can work with professors and such as usual, though. Also, the thesis is "optional" - you can do a thesis or a few-months-long case study/conceptualization on your longest therapeutic relationship with a patient. Due to the optional part, a lot of people opt for the other (rather than a thesis). If you plan on stopping with a master's, this doesn't really effect you! But, I fear that these things have screwed me for the upcoming applications for doctoral programs. Well, I am to blame, not the program. But, it is frustrating. Also, no "funding" per se, although you do get a stipend for being a Graduate Assistant, and then later have the option to be a Teaching Assistant for various classes. Master's programs, from what I know, are typically not funded.

If you would like any info, feel free to message me.
 
About the Ads

R. Matey

A Pirate
5+ Year Member
Jul 15, 2014
667
776
Treasure Island
Status
  1. Post Doc
Thanks for the comments guys :)

I think im gonna opt for a masters in counseling before I commit to a PsyD! Does anyone know of any good programs? Are there any good masters programs with funding?

See other threads about my feelings on LPCs. That said, this is the only partially funded program I know of:


Also, I do not recommend doing an LPC and a Psy.D. Both of these types programs are largely unfunded leaving you in substantial debt with little hope of being able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time. The training model for these programs are assuming an entry level amount of education meaning that you'll be likely repeating coursework. If you really just want to be a clinician, why not consider an MSW?
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Peacemaker36

5+ Year Member
Jul 17, 2014
150
119
Status
  1. Psychologist
Well, psychologists in private practice do typically earn more than Master's level clinicians. Medicare and most private insurers pay doctoral-level clinicians more for psychotherapy. If you choose not to accept insurance then you can set your own rates; in general self-pay patients seem willing to pay more for a therapist with a doctorate, although there are many exceptions of social workers with high fees and large caseloads.

However, despite the higher annual earnings for psychologists, you'd really have to crunch some numbers to know which path would lead to higher earnings over the course of your career. The opportunity cost of 5-7 years of schooling can be estimated. So can the repayment schedules for student loans.

It's been a while since I've seen this fun video about the wish to be called "Doctor":
 
  • Like
Reactions: 3 users
Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
See other threads about my feelings on LPCs. That said, this is the only partially funded program I know of:


Also, I do not recommend doing an LPC and a Psy.D. Both of these types programs are largely unfunded leaving you in substantial debt with little hope of being able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time. The training model for these programs are assuming an entry level amount of education meaning that you'll be likely repeating coursework. If you really just want to be a clinician, why not consider an MSW?

Hmm I see. Yes I actually am considering MSW! From my understanding, I can still provide therapy for clients on a 1:1 basis but it would also open my options for doing other work as well?

I really just want to earn good money and doing something I love. What I am passionate about is meaningful human connection and helping people, which is why I thought I should be a psychologist. However, I must admit, all of this talk about the debt that would follow after completing my doctorate and how long it would take to complete, is making me think the pay is simply not worth it. Do you think a MSW could earn more money?
 
Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
Well, psychologists in private practice do typically earn more than Master's level clinicians. Medicare and most private insurers pay doctoral-level clinicians more for psychotherapy. If you choose not to accept insurance then you can set your own rates; in general self-pay patients seem willing to pay more for a therapist with a doctorate, although there are many exceptions of social workers with high fees and large caseloads.

However, despite the higher annual earnings for psychologists, you'd really have to crunch some numbers to know which path would lead to higher earnings over the course of your career. The opportunity cost of 5-7 years of schooling can be estimated. So can the repayment schedules for student loans.

It's been a while since I've seen this fun video about the wish to be called "Doctor":

Wow this video was AMAZING! This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so so much for showing me this!!!
I am actually petrified now, thinking that that could be my life if I opt for a PsyD right away. Maybe I can do a MSW first, and then later in life I can always do a PhD..
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
I’m still not understanding why you want a doctorate. If you just want to provide therapy, doctoral programs will take 5-7 years or more until you can become licensed and be paid full pay as a licensed psychologist (a postdoc job to get hours for licensure is commonly required, too, as well as a national exam and sometimes state-level exams that are pricey). Early career psychologists also don’t always start out with the expected high pay (some folks in here do, but some don’t), so some still work their way up (this will depend on region, specialty, setting, etc.). The vast majority seek a doctorate to not only provide therapy but to have the flexibility to provide assessments, teach, conduct research, go into a particular niche (i.e. sports psychology, neuropsych), etc.

Instead, you could get a master’s degree in about 2-3 years, gain your licensure hours by year 3 or 4 (you’ll have to do an internship to get licensure hours and take an exam in master’s programs as well) and be fully licensed by year 4 and providing therapy. The pay ceiling is lower, but you’d be able to be part of the workforce faster and come out with less debt. I’d suggest an MSW with a clinical emphasis because it is more portable from state to state and offers more flexibility in job choices.

This was veryyyy helpful. Thank you so so much for this valuable insight! Do you know of any good MSW programs with a clinical emphasis? :)
 
Jun 15, 2020
27
3
Status
  1. Pre-Psychology
I think you should strongly consider a Master's in Social Work (MSW) if you are solely interested in providing therapy. You're able to provide therapy with this degree and it's only two years. While a Psy.D. might be a higher paycheck, you also need to factor in debt to your take home pay when considering advance degree options. It's not uncommon for people to leave Psy.D. programs with >$100k in student loan debt. That's simply bad math for a career that pays around $70-80k per year.
I really appreciate your feedback :) Thank you!!
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

conky124

5+ Year Member
Feb 18, 2015
116
112
Status
  1. Psychology Student
Well, psychologists in private practice do typically earn more than Master's level clinicians. Medicare and most private insurers pay doctoral-level clinicians more for psychotherapy. If you choose not to accept insurance then you can set your own rates; in general self-pay patients seem willing to pay more for a therapist with a doctorate, although there are many exceptions of social workers with high fees and large caseloads.

However, despite the higher annual earnings for psychologists, you'd really have to crunch some numbers to know which path would lead to higher earnings over the course of your career. The opportunity cost of 5-7 years of schooling can be estimated. So can the repayment schedules for student loans.

It's been a while since I've seen this fun video about the wish to be called "Doctor":
ARE YOU A ROBOT CHILD THAT WANTS A PHD IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY? THINK AGAIN!!!!

lol I think I remember reading this dialogue somewhere that was in an article or something. I love that someone made a weird internet video with robot voices depicting it. Its kind of like a puppet show that is meant to tell kids not to do drugs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

R. Matey

A Pirate
5+ Year Member
Jul 15, 2014
667
776
Treasure Island
Status
  1. Post Doc

beginner2011

Beginner's Mind
7+ Year Member
Apr 13, 2011
393
428
Status
  1. Post Doc
This was veryyyy helpful. Thank you so so much for this valuable insight! Do you know of any good MSW programs with a clinical emphasis? :)

Inspired by this thread and numerous others like it I did some back of the napkin math to compare debt/income for a few different professions based on public data about median debt, length of education, and salary. You can review here:


My take away is that if your priority is just doing individual therapy and maximizing income then MD or Master's degree is probably the best bet. PsyD is probably the worst option due to the massive debt burden. Quality of training and effectiveness of the work you do is a totally different conversation. I would argue gaining a PhD from a funded program would provide the highest quality of training in psychotherapy due to quantity and quality of supervision and other training resources.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

foreverbull

5+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2015
1,108
1,382
This was veryyyy helpful. Thank you so so much for this valuable insight! Do you know of any good MSW programs with a clinical emphasis? :)
I wish I knew; this is not my area, unfortunately. Any other folks in here have some ideas about solid clinical MSW programs in CA?
 

Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

  1. Your new thread title is very short, and likely is unhelpful.
  2. Your reply is very short and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  3. Your reply is very long and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
  5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
  6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  7. This thread is locked.
About the Ads